news now

NFL playoff picks, predictions for divisional games: Ravens run past Bills; Packers stump Rams; Bucs upset Saints

Sporting News — (Bill Bender)

The divisional round of the 2021 NFL playoffs is all about the quarterback matchups.  

The 2021 NFL playoffs features six wild-card matchups over a two-day stretch that should produce an overload of excitement for NFL fans. Indianapolis and Buffalo open the action at 1:05 p.m. ET on Saturday. Los Angeles and Seattle will meet for the third time in the 4:40 p.m. slot, which sets up a prime-time matchup between Tampa Bay and Washington at 8:15 p.m.  

Sunday features another tripleheader. Baltimore and Tennessee meet in a rematch of last year's AFC divisional playoff game at 1:05 p.m. Chicago faces New Orleans at 4:40 p.m. Cleveland makes its first playoff appearances since 2003 against the rival Steelers at 8:15 p.m.  

Sporting News picks the divisional games straight up:  

  • Last Week: 4-2 
  • Regular season: 129-75 
  • Overall: 133-77 

With that as the mind, below are our picks and predictions for Week 17:  

MORE NFL PLAYOFFS:
AFC & NFC bracket | TV schedule | Super Bowl picks

NFL picks, predictions for 2021 divisional playoff games

  • Los Angeles Rams at Green Bay Packers (-7)  

Saturday, 4:35 p.m., FOX 

The Packers have home-field advantage, and the challenge for Aaron Rodgers is finding ways to attack a dominant Rams defense. Aaron Donald (ribs) is expected to play, and that interior pressure will be key against a Green Bay offensive line that has been the team strength. Sean McVay and Matt LaFleur know each other well, so that chess match will be fun to watch on both sides. Ultimately, it's Green Bay's defense — which has allowed 25 points or less in its last six games — that steals the spotlight in the second half. Rodgers earns a trip to his fifth NFC championship game, and his first one at Lambeau Field. It won't be easy.  

Pick: Packers 30, Rams 24 

  • Baltimore Ravens at Buffalo Bills (-3)  

Saturday, 8:15 p.m., NBC  

The Bills have won seven in a row, and the Ravens have won six straight games. Josh Allen and Lamar Jackson have found their grooves, and both will be challenged by tough defenses. The difference for Baltimore, however, has been a running game ignited by J.K. Dobbins, who has scored a TD in seven straight games. The Ravens can limit Buffalo's possessions with that ground game, and the pass defense limits the Bills' opportunities in the red zone. Marlon Humphrey seals the victory with a late interception.  

Pick: Ravens 28, Bills 24

  • Cleveland Browns at Kansas City Chiefs (-10)  

Sunday, 3:30 p.m., CBS 

The Browns will be playing with the confidence that comes from winning the franchise's first playoff game 25 years. Don't be surprised if Cleveland takes a first-quarter lead and can have success running the ball with Nick Chubb and former Kansas City running back Kareem Hunt against a Chiefs defense that allowed 4.5 yards per carry. The Browns, however, have allowed 300 or more yards passing seven of their last eight games. Patrick Mahomes will hit Tyreek Hill for a pair of long TD passes in the second half, and the Chiefs will pressure Baker Mayfield to keep pace. It's going to be the highest-scoring game of the weekend.  

Pick: Chiefs 38, Browns 30 

  • Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New Orleans Saints (-3.5)  

Saturday, 8:15 p.m., FOX 

The Saints swept the regular-season matchups, and Tom Brady threw five interceptions in those two games. Tampa Bay's offense has improved since, and the addition of Antonio Brown gives New Orleans another issue. Tampa Bay held Alvin Kamara in check in the regular-season matchups, but Drew Brees didn't make the big mistakes. This adds up to a classic third installment, and Brady leads a late TD drive that seals the road upset with a TD pass to Rob Gronkowski. Who else would it be?  

Pick: Buccaneers 31, Saints 27